STILLWATER, Okla. — A disappointing defensive effort prompted Texas women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer to call his squad "real soft" as the Texas women's basketball team struggled in a 68-51 road loss to Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena Wednesday evening.
"Against a team like this, that is physical, that's aggressive, that plays hard, we struggled," a disappointed Schaefer said following the game. "It's been that way all year. It won't always been like this. But this is who we are right now. Having a competitive spirit is not something you can teach or instill or ingrain. You are who you are."
As Schaefer looked down the stat sheet while talking with the media postgame, his frustration was evident. His squad, which prides itself on a full-court pressing defense, allowed Oklahoma State to shoot 53 percent from the field, including 41 percent from three-point range, and take down his squad by 17. The Cowgirls did much of their offensive work in the low post, scoring 40 of their 68 points in the paint.
"For us, we have to defend better," Schaefer said. "That's playing hard, that's executing the gameplan. We let the ball get passed around and don't deny more than any team I've ever had. I think that's a great indicator of how passive we are."
For Schaefer, playing in Stillwater Wednesday held special significance. Twenty years ago, on this same day, 10 members of the Oklahoma State family were killed coming back from the men's basketball team's road contest at Colorado. Schaefer was coaching at Arkansas at the time, and took over a minute to note how "honored" he was to being playing in Stillwater on such a day that will forever be immortalized in college hoops history.
"For me personally it was an honor to play on this night," Schaefer said, "to honor those people who perished in that plane crash. I told the kids they don't really know about that. But for us to have the opportunity to play tonight was truly an honor."
The Cowgirls took a 19-12 advantage in the first quarter, powered by 53 percent shooting from the field, compared to UT's 28 percent. Schaefer had stressed the importance of a good start when playing on the road, but Texas scored just six points in the first 7:41 of play. As Oklahoma State extended its lead to double digits late in the first quarter, the Horns were simply trying to find a rhythm.
The second quarter followed the same lines, as Charli Collier, last week's Naismith Player of the Week, picked up three fouls by the 2:31 mark in the second quarter and was held to just six first-half points. With their leading scorer having an off night — Collier was limited to just 10 points in the game — the Horns looked for a leader, and guard Joanne Allen-Taylor answered the call.
Allen-Taylor attempted to ignite a flame all evening, scoring a team-high 14 points to go along with four steals in 38 tireless minutes. However, one player can not carry the team alone, and although Schaefer said postgame that Allen-Taylor had pleaded with the team to have better effort throughout the contest, that effort never fully revealed itself.
Aside from Allen-Taylor and Collier, who paired her 10 points with a game-high 17 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season, just five other players scored. Guard Karisma Ortiz tied Allen-Taylor for the team scoring lead with 11 points.
"Jo, bless her heart, she was trying to tell them, 'this is a dogfight — let's go' a couple different times," Schaefer said. "But she's the only one."
The Longhorns trailed by just three points, 35-32, at the half, but the Cowgirls pulled further ahead, outscoring their opponents, 20-8, in the quarter to take a commanding 55-40 lead. Texas showed glimmers of a comeback in the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma State stretched its lead by two more points before the end of the game.
"We fought back and got it to three at the half — really should have got it to one," Schaefer said. "We had a defensive malfunction that we'd worked on for two days. We can't make the right decision. That is part of the mental toughness I'm talking about."
The loss was a step back for Schaefer's squad, considering the Longhorns had defeated No. 24 Iowa State just four days prior. It puts 11-4 Texas back to No. 5 in the Big 12 standings, with a 5-3 conference record, while 11-5 Oklahoma State remains at No. 4 with a Big 12 mark of 7-3.
Looking ahead, it will be a short week for Texas. Thursday will be an off day with practice Friday and the second battle of the season with Texas Tech at 7 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be carried on the Longhorn Network. The last time the two met, the Lady Raiders took down Texas, 66-58.
Following Wednesday's game, Schaefer said Allen-Taylor wrote on the whiteboard that she felt this team played soft. When asked about it, he was in agreeance with her conclusion.
"I think she's dead-on," Schaefer said. "But we'll get it fixed. That's my job. That's why I'm at Texas. This doesn't just happen overnight. We'll keep coaching and teaching, but like I said, you're either competitive or you're not."